On Education

Someone called me recently for assistance with a problem. They reported that they could access the internet via their cable ISP, but could not access their inherent email account from either of two computers. They called the cable provider first for assistance, and the “techie” at the other end performed a number of “services” over a period of about ninety minutes. In the end, little had changed.

When the problem was described to me, I suggested that they should look to the most common element — the cable modem/router. I did not know at the time that the ISP’s technical assistant had not ordered the modem to be reset. While waiting to see if I would be called upon to show up and solve the problem, I received an email from the caller stating that everything was fine. He had reset the modem.

It is this sort of thing that leads me to conclude that our educational system fails, at all levels, to teach people elementary problem solving skills, including the rules of logic, how to formulate a problem, critical thinking and analysis, etc. Even elementary math is most often taught as a set of hard and fast rules without any attention being paid to the practical consequences of applying those rules to the real world. That, I believe is what “statement problems” in math were meant to do, but many students simply don’t seem to be able to understand those practical applications; perhaps because they didn’t learn to read.

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